Good news for employers accustomed to remotely inspecting I-9 documents during COVID! As of August 1st, 2023, employers have a permanent virtual inspection option for work authorization documents, known as the “Alternative Procedure.” While this exciting change offers new flexibility and convenience, it comes with some notable strings attached. Let’s look in detail at the benefits and drawbacks employers should consider before implementing this new workflow.
Historically, employers have been required to physically meet with and review the identity and work authorization documents of all new employees. USCIS made an unprecedented exception for the duration of the pandemic emergency that enabled employers to review work authorization documents remotely using a video call.
Acknowledging the paradigm shift this virtual process created, USCIS announced a long-term virtual review process termed “Alternative Procedure” that is available for employers starting August 1st, 2023.
Who Can Use Alternative Procedure?
The criteria to use Alternative Procedure is much more strict than the temporary process allowed during COVID-19. Here are the requirements:
- Employer must utilize E-Verify
- Employer must be in good standing with E-Verify (see FAQ for details)
- Must undergo the proper training
- Must use for ALL employees
- OR remote hires only but use physical examination for on site hires
- Have means to securely retain and present clear and legible copies of all documents presented
What If I’m Not Currently Using E-Verify?
Employers that would like to utilize the Alternative Procedure but aren’t using E-Verify can enroll on the Official E-Verify Website. Before you sign up, it’s important to know that E-Verify is “all or nothing.” Meaning once you verify one employee through E-Verify, you’ll be required to utilize it for all employees moving forward within that Hiring Site.
If you’re not familiar with the process, E-Verify requires manual re-entry of employee data from Form I-9 into the E-Verify web portal; it is not an alternative to completing the Form I-9—it is in addition to the Form I-9. If you’re hiring more than a few employees a month, this can quickly become a significant administrative burden and additional opportunity for compliance risks from data-entry errors.
Does It Matter What Version of Form I-9 We Use?
Employers are encouraged to utilize the 08.01.23 version of Form I-9 as it contains a new checkbox to indicate the employer has utilized Alternative Procedure. The new version has also been enhanced for mobile and tablet usage, so it is easier to facilitate Section 1 remotely.
If you choose to use the previous I-9, which is compliant until October 31st, 2023, you will need to notate in the Additional Information field in Section 2 of the Form I-9 that the Alternative Procedure was used for document review along with the date.
How Does Alternative Procedure Work?
If the employer meets the program criteria and is using the 08.01.23 Form I-9, the Alternative Procedure can be used to inspect work authorization documents for employees hired after August 1st, 2023.
Once I-9 Section 1 is complete, here’s an overview of the Alternative Procedure.
- Document Submission: Employee electronically sends copies of identity and work authorization document(s) to the employer in advance of a video meeting/interaction.
- Virtual (Video) Meeting: Employee and Authorized Representative of employer meet via video conference
- Document Inspection: Authorized Rep verifies documents appear genuine and related to the employee
- Sign Section 2: Authorized Rep records the date of the meeting in the Additional Information section of the employee’s Form I-9 and checks the “Alternative Procedure” box on the 08.01.23 Form I-9
- Submit to E-Verify: Employer submits Form I-9 to E-Verify
- Secure Storage: Employer stores and retains a copy of work authorization documents in the event of an audit
Disadvantages of Alternative Procedure
While it’s exciting to see the government move Form I-9 in a progressive direction to accommodate a more virtual world, there are some distinct challenges employers should consider before switching to this process.
All-in on E-Verify: The I-9 is already a lot of administrative effort, and E-Verify adds additional and permanent burden to employers. Once you start E-Verify you’re required to run all employees for a single Hiring Site through the system to remain compliant.
Security Risks: Employers need to collect and retain sensitive documents, so ensuring you have the training or systems to do this effectively is essential to staying compliant. Most systems like non-password-protected email attachments or Google Drive don’t meet DHS’ security best practices for employee PII.
Logistical Burden: In some ways, virtual review simplifies Section 2—such as the move away from in-person meetings. However, it’s important to consider the additional steps and processes required. With the new Alternative Procedure, you will need a process to securely collect documents in advance,conduct a secure video meeting, coordinate virtual meetings across time zones, and securely store documents in the case of i 9 audit procedures.
Audit Log Ambiguity: How do you document the authenticity of a virtual meeting? The USCIS has offered some general guidance on how to document an Alternative Procedure, but employers will need to develop their own audit-log standards and processes to ensure crystal-clear records of these virtual meetings.
What is the Best Method for Virtual I-9?
We’re a bit biased, but we still believe the perfect harmony of ease, security, and compliance is WorkBright Smart I-9. WorkBright uses a hybrid process that securely facilitates a digital I-9 while including a compliant physical document review by an Authorized Representative. It’s less admin work than Alternative Procedure, has a more robust audit trail, and doesn’t require you to use E-Verify (but fully supports it if you choose to). Here’s why it’s still the gold-standard I-9 in 2023:
Speed & Ease – We’ve simplified the I-9 for both employers and their new team members. Send an I-9 to an employee in under a minute, they select an authorized representative to complete Section 2, and their completed and audit-ready I-9 is back in your account in mere minutes.
Improved Employee Experience – Our Smart I-9 guides your employees through both Sections of Form I-9 with user-friendly instructions and videos that make it a fast and painless process.
Error Mitigation – WorkBright offers built-in compliance guardrails to catch errors before they’re made. Including scanning and transcribing work authorization documents to avoid manual data-entry errors.
Audit Confidence – Robust and legal-reviewed audit trail for every step of the process. You’ll get a detailed log of locations, IP addresses, and timestamps to validate your reviews in case of ice i 9 audit procedures.
Secure Document Transfer & Storage – Sensitive documents are uploaded and stored with bank-grade security.
How Do I Get Started With WorkBright?
We’d love to show you our Smart I-9 in action, so book a personalized demo with one of our awesome reps!
What does it mean to be in “Good Standing” with E-Verify?
- Per the DHS: A participant in good standing in E-Verify is an employer that has enrolled in E-Verify with respect to all hiring sites in the United States that use the alternative procedure; is in compliance with all requirements of the E-Verify program, including but not limited to verifying the employment eligibility of newly hired employees in the United States; and continues to be a participant in good standing in E-Verify at any time during which the employer uses the alternative procedure.
Q: Can we use the Alternative Procedure for only some of our employees?
Per the DHS: If a qualified employer chooses to offer the alternative procedure to new employees at an E-Verify hiring site, that employer must do so consistently for all employees at that site. However, a qualified employer may choose to offer the alternative procedure for remote hires only but continue to apply physical examination procedures to all employees who work onsite or in a hybrid capacity, so long as the employer does not adopt such a practice for a discriminatory purpose or treat employees differently based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin
Can I still use physical review in-house or via an authorized representative?
Yes! In fact, this is still recommended as best practice in i 9 filing procedures.
Can I sign up for E-Verify to use the Alternative Procedure if I’m not in an E-Verify mandated state?
Yes! You will need to complete the new training on document fraud (to be provided by E-Verify) as i-9 compliance procedures. and look at options for integration with your current systems to remove the administrative burden.
Can I use the Alternative Procedure to reconcile virtually reviewed I-9s?
Maybe. If you were enrolled in E-Verify and created a case for those employees at the time of the original virtual review, you may be able to use this process. See our guide to completing i 9 virtual re-verification.